I love books with a strong or unique voice, a character whose language echoes inside your head so forcefully it feels like you can hear them talking to you. A few that come to mind are classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Moby DIck, and more contemporary novels such as Kazuo Ichiguro’s The Remains of the Day. Even non-fiction books can have a strong voice: T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom for example.
One of my favorite voices in contemporary fiction belongs to Shed, the half-Shoshone protagonist in Tom Spanbauer’s 1991 novel, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon. Out-There-In-The-Shed, or just Shed, speaks in a clipped, sometimes ungrammatical voice that I can recall to this day. Speaking in that special voice, Shed narrates his remarkable life in and around the dusty little town of Excellent, Utah during the last half of the nineteenth century.
After Shed’s mother is killed, the boy is taken in by the no-nonsense local brothel keeper, Ida Richelieu. Wanting to know more about his past, and especially the identity and whereabouts of his father, Shed embarks on an adventure that changes his life and his understanding of the world. FIlled with unforgettable characters, such as Damn Dave and his damn dog, and the four African-American Wisdom brothers, Homer, Blind Jude, Ulysses and Virgil, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon is an exuberant twist on the American western. Using a technique the author calls, “dangerous writing,” Spanbauer mixes Native American spirituality with the bawdy rambunctiousness of more picaresque American voices like Twain’s.
If you’d like to hear Shed’s voice for yourself, you can reserve The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon here.